62: Unintentional Lessons

62: Unintentional Lessons

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Unintentional Lessons

We mothers are learning to mark our mothering success by our daughters’ lengthening flight.

~Letty Cottin Pogrebin

There are lessons we intend to teach as a parent. And then there are unintentional lessons. My mother taught me to be a writer. Not actually, but accidentally. It happened the day I found her black binder.

It contained a story she was writing, privately, steadily, right under our noses. This was an enthralling discovery for a ten-year-old girl who was fiddling with notebooks and fiction. It gave me permission to start.

We never talked about it, but I watched her, placing my fingers on her typewriter when she wasn’t looking.

My mother stopped writing at some point, pursuing other interests. I stayed with words.

I wrote for newspapers. I wrote in college. I wrote a play that won a competition. I wrote another that went nowhere.

Then I became a mother, one who wrote. I knew it was possible because my mother did it. I raised words alongside my toddlers, filling my own black binders.

Pursuing a childhood dream while raising children is awkward, which is why I didn’t talk about it much with other people. I wanted legitimacy first — traditional, old-school, bookstore and newsstand legitimacy. I have learned the road to this kind of legitimacy is paved with rejection.

When my kids started school, things started to change. Slowly. Very slowly.

I started writing a column for the Battle Creek Enquirer. It felt good to see my byline again. It allowed me to use that wonderful word without blushing — writer. My kids even used it, which was a form of legitimacy.

My occasional column became a Sunday column. I gained publishing credits in literary magazines and anthologies. I had a few plays produced and was working on a book. Cairn Press published my first book, A Teacher Named Faith.

I am forty-four years old. I have three teenagers. I have finally made it.

My oldest daughter loves music the way I love writing. My experience has served me in several tight places with her because I really do understand the arts and how underappreciated they are. Pursuing one’s passion is a blessing and a curse, something people will work another job to keep doing.

I do.

One day I was working one of those jobs, writing on my lunch break. When I got home, I found a note from my daughter on my desk.

She wanted to tell me about her mock college interview, the last lesson in her ACT Prep class. Apparently, the moderator had asked what book most inspired her. She mentioned my book.

She explained the book had taught her not to give up on her passions. It proved that she could make a career in music even if she wasn’t a pop star at the end of college because her mom was “forty-some years old” and still making her dreams come true.

She ended her note with, “Now that’s inspirational.”

I bawled. Not for a minute, but ten.

I didn’t mean to teach that lesson. I didn’t know she was paying attention.

One day, my daughter will be the one teaching the unintentional lessons. The possibilities make me smile.

~Nicole L.V. Mullis

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